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‘Missed opportunity’ to fund truck parking in COVID relief package

A measure that would have provided $755 million in taxpayer funds over the next five years to expand truck parking capacity was offered and quickly withdrawn during negotiations over the next COVID-19 relief bill.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Illinois, who offered the amendment, removed it in the interest of speeding the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s all-day markup Wednesday of its nearly $100 billion portion of the overall $1.9 trillion COVID legislation package.

“I know we’re going long today so I will withdraw my amendment in the hopes that this committee will work with me to continue to work on this problem,” Bost said.

He added, however, that “this is a missed opportunity. Truck parking is not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue. The safety of our nation’s truckers should be a concern to all of us. When we have safe places to park they will also make our roads safer for other drivers and help insure they can deliver the goods to stores and store shelves.”

Responding to Bost’s withdrawal, Rep Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon and chairman of the committee, told Bost that truck parking was a focus in recent talks with Todd Spencer, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association president.

“I promised him that we would meaningfully address truck parking in HR 2 [surface transportation reauthorization legislation] and would be happy to work with you when we can access the Highway Trust Fund and dedicate some dollars to it.”

Last year Bost introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act — a bill similar to the amendment he offered Wednesday— to help expand parking options for long-haul truckers. The proposal established a funding source separate from existing U.S. Department of Transportation funds to incentivize states to expand free truck parking.

The bill, which was supported by American Trucking Associations, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, and Truckload Carriers Association, was included in the stalled infrastructure package passed by the House of Representatives last year.

Bost pointed out Wednesday that after Congress enacted Jason’s Law in 2012 to honor Jason Rivenburg, who was murdered in 2009 while sleeping in his truck at an abandoned gas station, the problem of inadequate truck parking has been better documented.

“The conclusion … over the years is that the lack of truck parking capacity is a serious safety issue for motor carriers and other motorists. More than 75% of truckers have reported having trouble finding safe parking spaces,” Bost said, citing the latest Jason’s Law survey.

During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing last week, Bost contended that hours-of-service regulations and electronic logging devices exacerbate the truck parking problem because they restrict the amount of time a trucker has to find a safe parking spot.

“You have a local community police officer that doesn’t understand that you have to shut your truck down according to federal law. Local laws say you’re violating the law by parking here, but you don’t have enough hours left to go anywhere else.”

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s portion of the COVID-19 relief bill includes:

  • FEMA: $50 billion for vaccination efforts, providing personal protective equipment for critical public sector employees and disinfecting activities in public facilities.

  • Transit: $30 billion to assist with operating costs, including payroll and personal protective equipment.

  • Airports: $8 billion, including $800 million for airport concessionaires.

  • Aerospace: $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program to retain or rehire workers.

  • Amtrak: $1.5 billion to recall and pay employees furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of fiscal year 2021 and to restore daily long-distance service.

This article originally appeared on Freight Waves

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